Professor J. Scott Armstrong of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School talked about politicized science and the scientific method on Monday’s Breitbart News Daily, expanding on the article he co-authored with Kesten C. Green for Breitbart News, “What Does the March for Science Mean by ‘Science’?”
“A lot of these people that were marching weren’t familiar with the first Earth Day in 1970. The first Earth Day said, ‘The science is settled: the Earth is getting colder.’ And the government said, ‘Give us your money, and we’ll save you,’” Armstrong told SiriusXM host Alex Marlow.
“The earth did not get colder. In fact, it got a bit warmer,” he noted. “So money was wasted, people forgot. But then last Saturday, we’re told once again that this time it’s really settled, and it’s getting warmer this time. So give us your money, and we’ll save you.”
“Here again, we’ve tried in vain to find a single scientific study to support this claim,” he said. “In fact, the government itself doesn’t seem to believe it because in their IPCC report, third assessment, they said long-term prediction of future climate state is not possible – which means that you shouldn’t predict any trend in the temperatures.”
“Well, how are we defining the scientific method then?” he asked. “We couldn’t find out. But we did find a remarkable agreement in the writings of famous scientists like Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, and Benjamin Franklin on what is the scientific method. Kesten Green and I summarized these writings to provide eight criteria that define what is a scientific paper. It’s not controversial. It includes things like objectivity and full disclosure. We’ve written this in a way that can be understood by most adults. It’s available at GuidelinesForScience.com.”
Armed with this simple one-page checklist, Armstrong hoped readers would be able to critically examine scientific reports for themselves, instead of depending on “authorities to tell you that this is science, and this is not science.”
“We used this checklist on the IPCC forecast for global warming. I said there were eight necessary criteria. In their computer models, they violated all of the eight necessary criteria for a scientific paper,” he revealed.
Armstrong said government and media overwhelmingly promote climate change alarmism because “it actually pays off for a lot of people.”
“This is not an unusual case,” he said of the IPCC forecast. “Kesten Green and I analyzed 26 other cases where the government said we have an environmental disaster. In each case, they said, ‘Give us your money, and we’ll save you.’ We looked at these. None of them were ever based on science. None of the disasters ever occurred. On the other hand, it worked out well for the government and many corporations. They got a lot of money. So again, they said, ‘Here’s a problem. Give us your money,’ and they benefited.”
“President Eisenhower had warned against this in his farewell address,” he recalled. “We think Bertrand Russell would have summarized this as his saying that this is one of those views which is so absurd that only very learned men could possibly adopt them.”
“You know, most Americans don’t believe in man-made global warming, nor do most climate scientists. Few people are willing to pay more than a trivial amount of money, of their own money, to solve this mythical problem. They’re certainly happy to spend other people’s money, though,” he observed.
Marlow noted this assertion ran contrary to the widely-repeated claim that 97 percent of scientists believe in man-made climate change.
“This keeps getting repeated,” Armstrong complained. “It’s been debunked many times. The standard thing in science is, you replicate a study and see if you get the same results. People are unable to replicate the study. The nearest we can tell is, 97 percent of people think climate varies, but this doesn’t mean that we have dangerous man-made global warming coming in the long term.”
He said his favorite response to claims about a climate change consensus is to ask the claimant to “name one scientist.”
“That stops almost everyone,” he said. “If that doesn’t stop, I ask, ‘At your leisure, could you send me a scientific forecast that dangerous man-made global warming will occur if we take no action?’ They can not. And if they continue to sputter, I ask them, ‘Could you think of any information that will prove you wrong in your belief that the globe is warming?’”
“Fortunately, these conversations are pretty short,” said Armstrong.
He saw his checklist of guidelines for evaluating scientific research papers as a vital instrument for de-politicizing media coverage of climate change and other topics where science and government intersect, arguing that the current lack of rigorous standards makes it easy for activists to manipulate journalists.
“If you want to change people’s behavior, you have to go beyond just telling them. You have to give them a checklist,” he said. “This is the way engineers operate. It’s the way medical science, medical researchers operate. If you give them a checklist and say, ‘Follow this,’ they do it, especially if you say, ‘We’ll pay you if you follow this.’ I have no trouble with getting people to follow checklists. So we’re trying to change the world with this one checklist on criteria for scientific method.”
“There’s a journal called Plos One, which has become the biggest scientific journal in the world, merely because they gave people a checklist, and they said, ‘Follow these criteria and you’ll get published.’ If you also add to their checklist the checklist on scientific procedures, the one that we have at GuidelinesForScience.com, that would change behavior,” he suggested.
“If you hire people, and you say, ‘Look, we’re hiring you to follow this method, they would do it. I can hire people and tell them that. But nobody asks people to follow the checklist. The checklist to me is a way of bringing about some sanity in getting people to follow a standard procedure,” said Armstrong.
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